A lot of people have asked me what was it like to travel alone for 40 days. To tell the truth, while I was solo, I never felt like I was alone. Sure, I miss the beaches, lack of a schedule, and finding street art on a random corners, but one of the things I miss the most is the openness I had and the people I connected with. Traveling allows you to connect with others and form bonds quickly, but more than likely you will never see them again... and that sucks. So, I would like to dedicate this post to the strangers turned family that blessed me in ways I would have never dreamed of. I believe that every interaction has its own purpose and lesson and thankfully, I met some of the dopest people ever over my Eurotrip this summer.
An Open Letter to the People I Met Abroad
Thank you for being a blessing that I did not know I needed. Thank you for speaking life into me even though I was a stranger. Thank you for sending me a smile at times I was internally wondering would I be okay. Thank you Lord for sending me angels in human flesh. "Thank you" isn't enough but it's all I have at the moment.
Tanisha, I do not even know where to begin. Your testimony gives me chills. You literally just went for it when so many people are caught up on "what if I fail". I admire you so much. You are in Paris hustling and doing it, and I am so proud of you. I look around sometimes and wish I could just get up and go (not that I hate my job at all), but because I am craving an adventure. You are living proof that with hard work and patience, it is possible. Paris was always my city of dreams and to see a sister living as an expat for 2 years gives me motivation and reminds me to stop being so afraid. I would rather fail and say I tried than life a life of "what if".
Aunt Tahaya and Uncle Rey, it almost seemed as though I was not going to be able to catch up with you. I remember you jokingly questioning if I was real or not because our schedules just could not align. But they did and I am so grateful. I listened to your love story and witnessed how happy you all are thirteen blissful years later. Ever so often, because I am 27 and not even remotely dating, I wonder when God will send my partner, or if he is even going to. And then I see the two of you and how drastically life changed after your first interaction. I know now more than before that when I am supposed to meet Mr., I will, and until then I will continue living my best and happiest life every day. There is no need for me to search and I am glad I have that urge out of my system. I am not sure when I will get back to Atlanta just yet, but when I do, seeing you all is a non-negotiable.
Kerri, Who knew that the random blonde sitting across from us at our hostel's breakfast in Rome would lead me to one of my ultimate travel crushes. Far too often I only hear about the glitz and glamour of teaching abroad but you kept it real. You also helped me shift my perspective and gave insight to things I did not once blink about until you gave your story. Because I am a black American woman, I do not often see white, let alone blonde women, outside the circle of privilege, but you faced some hardships while abroad too, and I respect you. I thought I was fearless, but you take that crown. I know that wherever you go, you are going to have the time of your life. Most of all, thank you for listening to me vent as I dealt with that horrid bank fraud situation. I was at wit's end, but you stayed patient with me the entire time and I am forever indebted.
Chloe, Liz, Roccio, and all of my wonderful hostel-mates, Thank you for reaffirming that there are good people in the world. There were plenty of times when I was extremely tired, frustrated, or whatever else I was feeling, and meeting a perfect stranger was always on cue. Random conversations on couches led to wild nights of partying, fabulous made from scratch Italian dinners, bonding over our life dreams and issues with our exes, and just an overall love of LIFE. Too many times I felt like I didn't "fit" into a box, but I realize that I am not meant to fit in a box. I have learned not to hate how I no longer think in a linear sense but more in a scribble sense. I've learned that being a "dreamer" isn't a bad thing and that I shouldn't dare apologize for my love to travel and my God given right to use the vacation days I work so hard for.
To the random couple I met in Paris, thank you for appreciating my hair. It sounds so silly in hindsight, but I was a bit self conscious about it. I did not realize Europe was going to full of so many women with their natural hair out, as it sounded like (well, it was...) an oxymoron. In a society that tries to make me feel bad for that God designed for me, it truly warmed my spirit to be embraced. You made me feel like a warrior that day and I think I walked a little bit higher with my hair fro'd the f out after our conversation. That was a day in which I truly felt liberated.
To the men I went on dates with, thank you for reaffirming that I am a goddess and worthy of a blessed relationship. I cannot even think about the pure utter crap I dealt with in relationships in the past. Even though nothing lasted forever, in the brief times that we went out, I felt like a princess. I am so beyond deserving of a loving partner and should not ever have to deal with pain to prove that I am a "ride or die" girlfriend. Been there. Done that. Lesson learned. Never again. American men, take notes. ;-)
Annabelle, you remind me of Tanisha and I look up to you. Good energy knows good energy. I wish we would have had more time to hang out and take over London together. You are another example of taking leaps of pure faith and going wherever the wind took you... while looking fabulous. One day... one day, I will get to your bossy level and we will take a trip. I know sometimes people just say that, but I am being serious. I promise I will catch you sooner than later.
I feel like this does not even scratch the surface for the amazing people I met. There are so many others like Monique, Sarah, Danielle's friends in London that gave me a tour in Brixton, Alex from Barcelona, every dang bartender that adopted me, Aunt Jackie and the rest of Eve's Italy craw. I would have said thank you earlier but I was full of emotion just thinking about how grateful I was to have met all of these wonderful people.
So many times while traveling there are horror stories, and I only had a few. In a society where I feel like I am being judged for simply being a black woman sometimes, I was engaging in deep and thoughtful dialogue with strangers that felt like old friends. I made bonds with people that cannot be replicated because that moment will never come back. This summer opened up my eyes in so many ways and I appreciate the raw, authentic moments that the typical tourist experience would never pay for.
If you could send a note to the people you met abroad, what would you say? What would you thank them for? The strangers we meet abroad sometimes give us our best lessons and I encourage you to send them a quick message. You never know when you will no longer be able to.